Achieving a balance between professional and personal life is a challenge in today’s fast-paced legal industry. The traditional 8 to 5 Monday-Friday work schedule no longer suits many employees. Perhaps you have young children, are pursuing a degree, have a chronic medical condition or care for elderly parents. Whatever the reason, today’s workplace offers a number of strategies to strike a better work-life balance.
One way to gain more flexibility is through alternative work schedules that provide greater flexibility or reduced hours. Examples of alternative work schedules include flex time, staggered hours, part-time employment and job sharing.
Letting employees work where they want and how they want is catching on in many law firms and legal departments. Flex time allows full-time employees to enjoy time off at certain times of the year most convenient to them and can include adjustable hours, workdays/weekends, holidays, and other work arrangements.
Flex time helps employees meet the unpredictable demands of family life, illness, and personal emergencies. At the same time, these work options decrease employee stress, reduce sick leave, and increase productivity.
Another growing initiative is staggered hours – working a full work week during unconventional hours that best suit the employee’s schedule. Staggered hours are beneficial to women with school-aged children, employees pursuing an advanced degree and others with significant obligations outside the office. They allow a law firm to address the needs of its clients at all hours by increasing the span of employee presence. The traditional 8 to 5 Monday-Friday work week (representing only about 27% of a 7-day week) does not ideally serve clients in an industry that is increasingly 24/7 driven.
Even some mega-firms permit staggered hours. A recent Legal Times article profiled one Washington D.C. attorney who arrived in the office every day at 6 a.m. and left by 2:55 p.m. to pick up her children from school. If you seek flexible arrangements but don’t want to reduce your work schedule or compensation, a staggered hour arrangement might work for you.
Part-Time Employment and Reduced-Hour Schedules
Part-time employment is another great alternative work arrangement. According to a recent NALP survey, most large law firms make part-time schedules available to their experienced attorneys, and the large majority of part-time employees - about 75% - are women. While part-time employment was traditionally discouraged by law firms, it is becoming more commonplace as women and other groups demand a better work-life balance.
Deborah Epstein Henry, the founder of Flex-Time Lawyers LLC, notes that reduced hour schedules increase employee productivity and efficiency. Moreover, recent studies reveal that employers have reaped sizable economic gains after implementing workplace flexibility programs.
Job sharing is another option to achieve work-life balance. Job sharing has existed for decades but, as more professionals seek a better work-life balance, job sharing in the legal industry has increased.
Job sharing enables two legal professionals to share one position. Generally, the salary for the position is split between both employees based on the percentage of time worked. Job resources, such as workspace, computer, and office supplies, are also shared. Through job sharing, you can enjoy all the benefits of your present position – benefits, status, skills enhancement – while enjoying a reduced schedule.